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Essen - serial,rather than parallel

Last year I did the Essen releases in parallel - lots of game played once, and then the self same games played again. This year i have been getting to know the games one by one in some depth: -Partly because the pressure of work means i have not had neither the time or mental capacity to absorb new rules, and partly because i have enjoyed some games so much I have played them multiple times.

It's a bit early to pass judgement on the 2010 crop however i am going to stick my neck out and say. like 2009, its an 'average to good' year; with no 'bolt from the sky' new game.

The closest to a great game so far is Mac Gerdt's Navegador. It’s his fifth Rondel game and his best. I am have played it six times and no two games have followed the same course, mainly because the game provides a framework for the player's to engage with each and not with the game system. It’s a joy to be playing a game that demands you sepnd as much time looking at your opponents boards as much as your own and having to plan and adjust depending on the players to your left and right. The maimn cause of this is the market mechanism - which is one of the best i have seen on a boardgame because it lets you transact on both 'sides' of a commodity.

The complete opposite of a game that engages you with your fellow players is 20th Century. For long periods of the game players are self absorbed in their tableau micro managing the best placement of tiles. For me it's a complete turn off and a bore. Moreover it has a UK RRP of £50 which is extortionate for what you get in the box.

'Troyes', from new publisher Pearl Games, has a very interesting game driver in the use of dice. The mechanic is engaging and really requires players to use a different sort of thought process to progress. However, you are progressing along the well worn path of fighting off bad events, building a cathedral and secret bonus cards. Like 'Egizia' and 'Vasco Da Gama' from 2009 the mechanics make the game, and whilst that might make it a good game (one i have played five times so far) i wonder about its longevity.

'Grand Cru' is from new designer Ulrich Bluhm, is a fairly brutal economic game with a weakish wine theme; 'Age of Syrah' as one of my game partners quipped comparing it to Wallace's train game. The comparison is apt and i wonder if it's unforgiving nature has caused mixed reviews? The game is a procession of small, incremental actions that if got wrong caan cost you the game. There’s no catch up mechanism and if you make the (most common )mistake of incorrectly valuing a succession of tiles you are out before you started. I have played it three times, keep thinking about the game and want to play it more often.

When i get time i will post my thoughts on 'Incan Empire', 'Habemus Pape' and 'London'

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